7 Secret Benefits of an Afternoon Nap | wit and pleasure

7 Secret Benefits of an Afternoon Nap |  wit and pleasure
Image by Marlen Mueller via Repeller

Some of you who have been forced to work from home during the pandemic may have recently discovered the magic of a midday nap. I’m lucky to have been working from home for years, and have long said that naps are one of the reasons I don’t think I’ll be able to return to an office environment. (That, and the cold air conditioning.)

Research abounds on the benefits of a daytime nap. Studies show that taking a short nap in the afternoon can help:

  • improve your mood
  • Relieve stress
  • support your immune system
  • low blood pressure
  • improve memory
  • regulate emotion
  • increase work performance
  • and helps your brain connect new information

But if the science doesn’t convince you, let me suggest a few more reasons to make 20-minute naps a part of your daily (or at least occasional) practice. I’m a lifelong professional napper, and sleep advocate, and I’m happy to share what I’ve discovered.

The case of the naps

  • skip caffeine
    Most of us feel down after being awake for about eight hours, often around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The next time you do, consider taking a nap instead of another cup of coffee (if you have the option). For me, afternoon caffeine is hit or miss, but a nap is a sure thing.
  • inviting inspiration
    Honestly, naps are part of my writing strategy. When I hit a wall on a project, I’ll switch to something else and let the challenge simmer in the back of my brain. When I add a nap to that simmer, I often wake up with fresh ideas and the ability to see new connections and solutions. Naps can be an Instant Pot for creativity.
  • handing over control
    When we believe that we are the source of all that is right and good, we begin to think that the world might stop spinning on its axis if we don’t keep it going. Imagine the exhaustion. (And the hubris?) When we let go and take a nap, we acknowledge, at least for a moment, that life continues to work just fine without us—a good reminder to all of us from time to time.
  • Human being
    Paying attention to your body’s needs, and satisfying them graciously, can ground you in your physique and remind you that you are not a superhuman. You are merely human, which is enough.
  • becoming vulnerable
    Resting your head on a pillow (or on a couch or even a car window) in the middle of the day is a vulnerable thing. You go from moving and shaking to an unprotected living organism. You drop your defenses and trust your surroundings. You take yourself out of the race, at least for a while. There is something to be said for what this type of practice can do for our souls. And ourselves.
  • catching wonder
    Pausing to breathe and rest can open you up to things that aren’t part of the linear, busy, driven world of work and achievement. What might you notice or discover if you let your brain go to sleep for a few moments during the day?
  • trusting your body
    It can be easy to go through life without listening to your body. Or maybe you’re listening, but you’re not really believing what you’re hearing. What would happen if you trusted that? I feel sleepy is it a message, a need and an invitation from your physical self: to stop, rest and restart?

permission to pause

For those of us who sometimes find our value in what we accomplish, a nap may seem counterproductive, but ironically, a nap can often make us further productive, and the practice of stopping, breathing, and resting can empower us to perform even better. Consider this your permission slip to steal thirty minutes for yourself.

I want to acknowledge that I am aware that taking a nap is an option that some people do not have. Jobs may not allow it, workplaces may not accommodate it, responsibilities and demands may not make room for it. But I also know that some of us believe we don’t have space when we actually have it. (Note to self: Twenty minutes of nap can do a lot more good than twenty minutes of coaxing.)

sleeping well

If you’re new to naps, there are tips that can help you improve your nap, such as keeping it short (twenty minutes instead of an hour or more) and timing it well (mid-afternoon instead of too late in the day). And people with insomnia should probably skip naps and consider meditation instead. Beyond that, try grabbing a pillow, closing your eyes, and falling asleep. You may be surprised at what you discover.

At least two naps were taken during the writing of this article. Who points to another?

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